Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: China demands proof of jet 'crash'

A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reacts at Lido Hotel on March 24, 2014 in Beijing, China
A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reacts at Lido Hotel on March 24, 2014 in Beijing, China
Family members of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Family members of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
A patrol vessel of Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency searches for the missing plane
A patrol vessel of Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency searches for the missing plane

China has demanded that Malaysia turn over satellite data it used to conclude that a passenger jet was lost in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors during a flight to Beijing.

Among the Malaysia Airlines flight's 239 passengers, 153 were Chinese nationals, making the incident a highly emotional one for Beijing.

Relatives of the missing passengers have complained bitterly about a lack of reliable information and some suspect they are not being told the whole truth.

Deputy foreign minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know what exactly led Malaysia to announce that the plane had been lost, China's Foreign Ministry said on its website.

"We demand the Malaysian side to make clear the specific basis on which they come to this judgment," Mr Xie was quoted as telling Datuk Iskandar Bin Sarudin during their meeting.

There was no immediate response from the Malaysian side.

The announcement sparked mournful, angry and chaotic scenes at the Beijing hotel where relatives had gathered.

A group of family members read out a statement condemning Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government and military and vowing to hold them responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.

Relatives plan to stage a further protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

The plane vanished less than an hour into an overnight flight on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

After 17 days of desperation and doubt over the missing jet, Malaysia said an analysis of satellite data pointed to a "heartbreaking" conclusion: Flight 370 met its end in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, and none of those aboard survived.

The sombre announcement by prime minister Najib Razak left unresolved many more troubling questions about what went wrong aboard the Boeing 777 to take it so far off-course.

Mr Najib read a brief statement about what he called an unparalleled study of the jet's last-known signals to a satellite. That analysis showed that the missing plane veered "to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites".

"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said.

His carefully chosen words did not directly address the fate of those aboard. But in a separate message, sent to some of their relatives just before he spoke, Malaysia Airlines said "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived".

Officials said they concluded that the flight had been lost in the deep waters west of Perth, Australia, based on more thorough analysis of the brief signals the plane sent every hour to a satellite belonging to Inmarsat, a British company, even after other communication systems on the jet shut down.

The pings did not include any location information. But Inmarsat and British aviation officials used "a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort" to zero in on the plane's last direction, as it reached the end of its fuel, Mr Najib said.

Inmarsat said the company used "detailed analysis and modelling" of transmissions from the Malaysia Airlines jet and other known flights to describe "the likely direction of flight of MH370".

Mr Najib gave no indication of exactly where in the Indian Ocean the plane was last heard from, but searchers have sighted possible debris in an area about 1,550 miles south west of Perth.

High waves, gale-force winds and low-hanging clouds forced the multinational search to be suspended for 24 hours, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss, responsible for the search co-ordination, said the determination that the plane had crashed shifts the search to a new phase, but that it would be a difficult and long one.

"The Malaysian announcement is purely based on the satellite imagery that's available, the calculations about fuel and capacity of the aircraft to stay in the air, so it's really a long, long way away before much can be done by way of physical examination," he said.

He said the Australian naval supply ship HMAS Success had been in the area where objects had been spotted Monday, but its crew had been unable to find anything.

There is also a race against the clock to find any trace of the plane that could lead them to the location of the black boxes, the common name for the cockpit voice and data recorders, whose battery-powered "pinger" could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month and can last longer.

The US Pacific Command is sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.

The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability that can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet.

The US Navy has also sent an unmanned underwater vehicle to Perth that can be used if debris is located.

Timeline of missing flight

March 8 - Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am local time bound for Beijing carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew.

Someone, apparently the co-pilot, makes the final voice communication from the cockpit at 01.19am, saying "All right, good night" to air traffic controllers.

The plane is last seen on military radar at 02.14am heading west over the Strait of Malacca. Half an hour later the airline reveals to the public it has lost contact with the plane. The plane was due to land around 6.30am.

Officials reveal two passports used to board the flight were stolen, raising the first suspicions of terrorist involvement.

March 9 - Malaysia's air force chief says that military radar indicated the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back.

March 10 - Vietnamese aircraft search for a plane door spotted in their waters but find nothing.

March 11 - The hunt is widened to cover a 115-nautical mile radius involving 34 aircraft and 40 ships from several countries.

The Malaysian military claims it has radar evidence showing that the missing plane changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait which is hundreds of miles away from the last location reported by civilian authorities. The aircraft was believed to be flying low.

The two male passengers travelling with stolen passports were Iranians who had bought tickets to Europe and were probably not terrorists, Malaysian police said.

March 12 - Satellite images on a Chinese government website shows suspected debris from the missing plane floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, China's Xinhua News Agency says.

The report includes co-ordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia, near the plane's original flight path.

March 13 - Malaysian authorities expand their search for the missing jet into the Andaman Sea and beyond after acknowledging it could have flown for several more hours after its last contact with the ground.

Nothing was found when planes were sent to search an area off southern Vietnam identified by Chinese satellite images. The Chinese Embassy notifies the Malaysian government that the images were released by mistake and did not show any debris from the missing flight.

March 15 - Prime Minister Najib Razak's says the missing airliner was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after losing contact with the ground. The plane could have gone as far north west as Kazakhstan or into the Indian Ocean's southern reaches.

Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men.

March 16 - The search area now includes 11 countries the plane might have flown over. The number of countries involved in the operation had increased from 14 to 25.

Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he had asked governments to hand over sensitive radar and satellite data to try to help get a better idea of the plane's final movements.

March 17 - Officials release a new timeline suggesting the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled.

Investigators have not ruled out hijacking, sabotage, or pilot suicide, and they are checking the backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists, personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

March 18 - Ten days after a Malaysian jetliner disappeared, Thailand's military said it saw radar blips that might have been from the missing plane but did not report it "because we did not pay attention to it".

March 19 - Distressed relatives of the missing passengers threaten to go on hunger strike over the lack of information about the investigation.

March 20 - Two objects which could be connected to the missing jet are detected in the southern India Ocean, the Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said.

March 24 - Malaysian Prime Minister tells media the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean according to flight data.

Further reading

MH370 crashed and there are no survivors: news families had always feared 

'Two more objects' found by Australian plane after Chinese sighting of possible debris in search area

Large object spotted in missing plane search

Poor conditions hamper search for debris of missing plane spotted floating in Indian Ocean

Two objects spotted in southern Indian Ocean, Australia says

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